TV cook­ing shows go to war

Knives are drawn in the lat­est food show, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

MY Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans didn’t ex­actly cover him­self in glory when he ap­peared last year on MasterChef Aus­tralia.

In May, the Hugo’s restau­rant im­pre­sario took on wannabe-chef Ju­lia Jenk­ins in the Celebrity Chef chal­lenge — and lost.

Evans’ sig­na­ture tea-smoked duck scored 24 out of 30 from judges Matt Pre­ston, Ge­orge Calom­baris and Gary Me­hi­gan. Jenk­ins’ ver­sion scored 27.

It was the up­set of the se­ries but Evans took it in his stride. He was so im­pressed by Jenk­ins that he of­fered to men­tor her for the re­main­der of the se­ries.

Evans re­calls the de­feat with good hu­mour. In fact, he reck­ons the up­set re­sult was the spark that turned MasterChef Aus­tralia into a full­blown hit.

‘‘It could go down in his­tory as ei­ther my smartest move or the dumb­est move in culi­nary his­tory,’’ Evans says with a laugh.

‘‘None of it was pre­med­i­tated. I’m sure the rat­ings went up an­other mil­lion (view­ers) the next day af­ter that hap­pened.

‘‘I reckon Chan­nel 10 owes me a lot for the MasterChef Aus­tralia phe­nom­e­non.’’

So does Seven, be­cause it’s doubt­ful My Kitchen Rules would have gone ahead if it hadn’t been for the suc­cess of MasterChef Aus­tralia.

The new se­ries is a spin-off of the ear­lier My Restau­rant Rules, which aired in 2004 and 2005.

Hosted by celebrity chef Cur­tis Stone and then Aus­tralian Idol judge Ian ‘‘Dicko’’ Dick­son, MRR pit­ted five cou­ples from Aus­tralia’s five largest cities against each other to open a suc­cess­ful restau­rant.

My Restau­rant Rules was a moderate suc­cess but a pro­posed third se­ries never even­tu­ated.

Kitchen keeps the state-ver­susstate tem­plate of Restau­rant. This time five teams of two at­tempt to out-wine and out-dine each other by turn­ing an or­di­nary home into an in­stant restau­rant — with $100,000 in prize­money at stake.

‘‘I be­lieve we ( MKR) have the same el­e­ments (as MasterChef Aus­tralia) that will at­tract a large au­di­ence,’’ Evans says.

‘‘The beauty of this show is that they (the con­tes­tants) are pas­sion­ate home cooks. They all have dif­fer­ent rea­sons for loving food.

‘‘Matt Moss (NSW) is a po­lice­man who was shot on duty. He . . . uses cook­ing as his med­i­ta­tion from a high-pres­sure job.

‘‘The two Vic­to­rian boys (Clint Yudel­man and Noah Rose) are young pro­fes­sion­als who use cook­ing as their so­cial­is­ing tool. In­stead of go­ing out at night, they love to en­ter­tain at home.

‘‘Melissa and Paul (South Aus­tralia) are left of cen­tre — a bit arty. For them, cook­ing is all about self­ex­pres­sion. My Kitchen Rules, PG Chan­nel 7, Mon­day and Tues­day, 7.30pm State-ver­sus-state cookoff Du­ra­tion: 1 hour

Evans’ fel­low judge on My Kitchen Rules is ac­claimed French chef and restau­ra­teur Manu Feildel who owns L’etoile in Syd­ney’s Padding­ton.

Any­one who watched MasterChef knows that part of the show’s suc­cess was be­cause Pre­ston, Calom­baris and Me­hi­gan ripped up the nasty blue­print of so many TV judges. They nur­tured con­tes­tants and were hon­est in their as­sess­ments.

Evans says he and Feildel adopted a ‘‘tough but fair’’ at­ti­tude on My Kitchen Rules.

‘‘I took a sim­ple view that I’d judge the food on the plate in front of me and not the peo­ple who cooked it,’’ Evans says.

‘‘I judged them as if they were my own chefs cre­at­ing a dish for me to try in my restau­rant. There’s no point mol­ly­cod­dling peo­ple. They want to im­prove and that’s why they’re on the show.’’

Cook and see: My Kitchen Rules con­tes­tants (back row, from left) Paul, Melissa, Gabe and Matt; (mid­dle) Natalie, Marc, Noah and Clint; (front) Tanja and Gen. Right: judges Manu Feildel (left) and Pete Evans.

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